Chicagoans experienced a brutal and exciting storm tonight, with winds reaching the 80mph range, lightening strikes all over the place, eardrum bursting thunder, downpours flooding streets, mayhem, hands flailing over heads, etc…
I love storms. No, that’s not exactly right. I LOVE STORMS. In fact, when I moved to Chicago in 1995 from Oregon via Montana via California, the first two things that made the super-flat, urban environment survivable for me (a dyed in the wool western mountain girl) was the lake and the storms.
However, I must say that since I’ve been working with the peregrine program, late spring – early summer storms have lost their luster a bit. When the rain starts to pour and the winds kick up, all I can think is, “Hmm, I wonder if that nest will rain out?” or “I wonder if a chick will go down.”
And so it was that I peered out the window at this impressive 5pm Friday storm and wondered whether our fledging chicks around the region had all been herded into the safety of ledge boxes and outcroppings by their watchful parents or taken to cover due to their own sense of self-preservation.
Sure enough, just as the storm started to die down to drizzling rain and random faraway lightening bolts, my cell phone rang. It was Mary saying that one of the South Loop chicks was down, apparently uninjured, on the pool deck of its building.
Sean had been caught in the storm too and had walked in the door, soaked to the bone, about 10 minutes before the call came in. I guiltily asked him if he wouldn’t mind putting his wet clothes back on and play the role of my second in the falcon capture. To his credit, he didn’t complain at all, just went into the bathroom and started to redress.
The walk to the building provided an impressive first look at the storm damage. Whole trees had been torn up by the roots, taking sidewalk with them, on our street just three blocks to the south. Huge branches and snapped off tree trunks littered Dearborn Park, two blocks to the south. The lower end of Grant Park was, like Dearborn Park, strewn with debris. Wow.
The building engineer met us in the lobby of 1130. He took us up to the 2nd floor pool deck, turned left and pointed at a door. “We shuffled him in there to keep him safe until you got here.”
I went in alone, expecting the worst. I mean, honestly, it was a hell of a storm and I had to figure this little guy had been blown off the roof 35+ stories up. Toews (b/r 27/m), as it turns out, had weathered his chaotic first flight VERY well. He stood in the corner, glaring at me and hissing. As I knelt down in front of him, he immediately flipped over and presented his pokiest bits. He grabbed me more than I grabbed him and he promptly gripped down very hard, digging his talons into my glove while trying to bite. I grinned through the mild pain in my hand. Feisty generally means healthy and uninjured in my experience.
I had Sean bring the carrier in and help me out while I felt for broken bones, looked for blood, etc. He looked great. I called Mary while I had him in hand and though she was sitting in a completely storm dark house watching to make sure her sump pump did its job so her basement wouldn’t flood, she still managed to put the peregrine baby first and talk me through the examination.
After Toews recieved a good bill of health, I put him in the carrier and Sean, the engineer and I headed up to the roof. There was still a lot of lightening, though as I said before, farther off. I told everyone to stay inside while I went out on the roof to return Toews to the nest. His brother (Kane) and sister (Buff) perched on the edge of the building’s roof looking wet but casual, as if no storm had blown through at all. They both watched as I slid the carrier through an opening in the roof’s inner core area out onto the uncovered roof.
“Look, little guy, there’s your brother and sister. So, see? There was no need to attack me. I was just checking you out and bringing you back to your family, eh?” I said, in my most soothing tones, as I opened the carrier door. I waited expectantly for him to come bursting out.
But, Toews absolutely refused to come out of the carrier. I tried gently upending the thing, but he flared his wings and hooked his feet on one of the air vents. I tried to reach in and coax him out, but got a lot of talon and a bit of beak for that effort. Finally, I decided the only way to get him out quickly, safely and quietly would be to completely dismantle the pet carrier and take the top off. It was a bit of an awkward thing to do as I was trying really hard not to disturb the other fledglings so trying to stay low and as out of sight as possible.
After a few minutes, I had all of the nuts and bolts unscrewed, took the top off and tipped the carrier, gently dumping Toews out onto the roof. I thought he’d see his siblings and immediately wander back to them, but instead, he turned to me and glared, standing his ground. Unfortunately, he was standing on the pile of bolts that had fallen during the dismantling.
“Um, ok, kid. I’m going to need those bolts to put the carrier back together, so move off.” I said, making a small shooing motion. Toews bit my glove.
And so, for the next few minutes I veeeery slowly gathered up all of the bolts. It was sort of like playing the child’s game Operation, except instead of that horrible buzzing noise when you touch a side, I got a bit of a peck or a talon grab. After all was said and done, I slinked backwards, eyes locked with Toews. He was still standing his ground as I backed through the door. Fierce little falcon!
As huge as that storm was, that was the only call I got, which was a massive relief.